Wednesday, March 23, 2011
“Disproportionate force” is the accusation invariably hurled at Israel when she does anything beyond lie down in response to Arab attack. In Dec. 2008, for example, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in an effort to reduce Hamas rocket fire coming in from the Gaza Strip – 1,750 rockets and 1,528 mortar bombs were hurled at Israel that year alone. Less than a year passed before the UN Human Rights Council Commission on Gaza led by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone accused Israel of “a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population.”
But if Israel is guilty of anything it’s of disproportionate restraint.
We see this most recently in the government’s feeble reaction to the Fogel family murders, in which a mother, a father and their three children were stabbed to death. The youngest, a 3-month-old baby girl, had her throat slit to the point of decapitation. It appears that the terrorists, who are still at large, fled to a nearby Arab village.
“They murder. We build,” was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remark to 12-year-old Tamar Fogel, the eldest daughter, who discovered the slaughter after returning home from an evening out with her youth group. The prime minister was referring to the government’s decision, in light of the attack, to approve the building of some 400 new apartments in places like Ma'ale Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Sefer and Gush Etzion.
Notably absent from the list was Itamar, the town where the murders actually took place. Itamar has been the site of many Arab terror attacks – 15 Jews were murdered at the height of the post-Oslo “peace”. It especially behooves Israel’s government to build in Itamar as it bears some guilt for the attack, having failed to provide adequate defense for the community.
According to Arutz Sheva, “the IDF refused to fund essential security equipment around the Itamar fence because the government’s legal department claimed that the fence was illegal…. The army also refused to help fund technological upgrading and installation of advanced capabilities for the surveillance camera … The upgrading would have made it possible, through the use of thermal sensitive devices, to differentiate between an animal touching the fence and someone going over it.”
Those who have followed news of the murders may recall that a guard on the night of the grisly crime was alerted by a fence alarm at the point where the terrorists infiltrated. Inspecting the area, he saw that the fence hadn’t been cut (the terrorists had jumped over), so he assumed an animal had triggered the alarm and did not pursue the incident further.
The ‘they murder, we build’ approach has not gone over well with the residents of Judea and Samaria. “It was an insult, Yesha Council officials said this week,” according to a Ynetnews.com op-ed. “Linking construction to this murder is simply insulting. It felt like the PM was offering us a deal: Here, you deserve 500 housing units for this murder. And even that figure quickly turned into 400 homes. And then we discovered that some 200 of those are apartments already approved a month ago and earmarked for young haredi couples in Beitar Ilit.”
The Netanyahu government says that it will also pursue the murderers. It may very well catch them. But unless the perpetrators are killed while being taken, they will end up doing time in an Israeli prison, perhaps eventually to be released in return for the bodies of some Israeli soldiers, as happened in the case of Sami Kuntar, who in 1979 shot dead 28-year-old Danny Haran and then killed his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, by smashing her skull with a rifle butt. No one would have believed that such a monster would have been released but he was set free in 2008 to be feted by Lebanon, Syria and Iran. In an interview, he remarked, “God willing, I will get the chance to kill more Israelis.”
Another group of terrorists who will probably enjoy relatively cushy confinement courtesy of the Israeli taxpayer are the Hamas terrorists who carried out an attack in September, killing four residents of Beit Haggai, a Jewish town near Hebron. The Arabs ambushed the four when they stopped their car at an intersection, shot them and then pulled their bodies from the vehicle and shot them again at point-blank range. One of the murdered was a woman nine months pregnant.
Just as with the murders in Itamar, the Israeli authorities share some of the guilt. As Arutz Sheva reported back in September, “The Victims of Arab Terror organization said it had begun initial steps into suing the Government of Israel for ‘having taking away the gun of Yitzchak Imas [one of the four killed at Beit Haggai], which might have been able to save his life and that of the other victims.”
Successive Israeli governments have pursued an upside down policy, failing to defend its citizens, even depriving them of the means to defend themselves, while at the same time releasing terrorists who’ve committed the most heinous crimes. This suicidal approach is reminiscent of the policy pursued by the Jewish Agency during the years of the 1936 Arab Revolt in the Mandate period.
As Shmuel Katz wrote in "Days of Fire" (W.H. Allen, 1968):
After a very brief period of hesitation the Agency decided on a policy called havlaga (self-restraint). This did not mean passivity. The Haganah was active, maintaining a twenty-four-hour protective guard on institutions in the towns, and a constant lookout in the agricultural settlements, and ready at any moment to repel attackers. But havlaga forbade carrying the war back to the attackers. They drove the enemy off (if he attacked in mass) but they did not pursue him; they did not liquidate his bases, nor counterattack. …
Dr. Chaim Weizmann in his memoirs, published twelve years later, wrote: “Violence paid political dividends to the Arabs while Jewish havlaga was expected to be its own reward. It did not even win official recognition."
Even as late as 1947, with a full-scale Arab invasion imminent, the Haganah found it difficult to shed pre-conceived notions. As Katz wrote:
Accidents and bad luck, even inefficiency in execution, are understandable, even inevitable. What was disturbing throughout those weeks was the strangely unreal political aspects of all Haganah activity. They persisted in describing these reprisals as “punitive operations” – an empty phrase which emphasized their failure to recognize the fact that they were waging a war of life and death. But the Jewish Agency’s official policy was still “moderation and non-provocation." …
The Agency’s subservience to the British remained unchanged, although the latter were openly exerting themselves to arm the Arabs and to disarm the Jews. A number of police armories in Arab centers were “taken over” by the Arabs. Again and again British police patrols met Haganah units and demanded the surrender of their arms. Haganah soldiers, acting on standing orders, meekly complied.
Why did the Jewish Agency leadership adopt such a policy? Katz offers that:
They saw their pioneering efforts as the foundation on which Jewish political existence could be built. But with their gaze turned inward, they were not capable of making a realistic assessment of the forces ranged against Zionism. Confronted by a clear-sighted, purposeful antagonist determined to set bounds to Jewish regeneration, they did not even identify the antagonist, let alone pause to recognize his motives.
Moreover these settlers were under the spell of the illusion of British sympathy with Zionism, and persuaded themselves that this interest in Zionism was a moral one. They believed that their social revolution had endeared itself to the British people, and that the virtues they personified (if only they could be sufficiently publicized) would cement British friendship.
It’s unlikely Netanyahu is motivated by similar illusions regarding Obama’s friendship. What Netanyahu shares with the “elite” of the Jewish Agency is the folly of his approach. With murder to the left of him and murder to the right of him, he intends to propose a new peace initiative. This plan will include more concessions to the PA. His motive may be that he wishes to head off, in the words of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a “diplomatic tsunami” whereby the international community will recognize a Palestinian State, but as others in the cabinet say, such an approach is “delusional”.
Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon points out that even so-called moderates like PA head Mahmud Abbas want Israel wiped off the map. It has been documented ad infinitum how the PA incites violence, indoctrinates children and celebrates the murder of Jews. The PA says one thing in English and another in Arabic. In the case of the Beit Haggai attack, the PA captured the terrorists responsible only to release them a few months later. When Sami Kuntar was released, the PA made him an honorary citizen.
What is remarkable about the PA's reaction to the Fogel family murders is that it condemned them at all. In the end, the PA's official media made up for this uncharacteristic condemnation when in the next breath it held Israel ultimately responsible and suggested, according to MEMRI, “that the attack could have been perpetrated by an Israeli settler.”
The Jewish Agency chose subservience to resistance. Netanyahu does the same. But it was resistance (led by the Irgun and Lehi) that finally drove the British from Palestine. It is resistance – not pre-emptive surrender – that offers Israel its only chance to extricate itself from the hangman's noose.